A researcher who studied the posture of people who experience virtually no back pain offers us a few exercises to get that pain-free life ourselves. One involves a simple breathing exercise, another asks us to clench our butts.
Esther Gokhale found that villagers in Ecuador, Portugal, and West Africa had differently shaped spines compared to Americans: J-shaped rather than S-shaped spines. She was able to eliminate her back pain—and that of her clients—by working to get the spine into that J shape.
She shares some of the exercises for better posture and less back pain. The breathing exercise is the easiest and you’ll likely notice a difference right away:
Lengthen your spine: Adding extra length to your spine is easy, Gokhale says. Being careful not to arch your back, take a deep breath in and grow tall. Then maintain that height as you exhale. Repeat: Breathe in, grow even taller and maintain that new height as you exhale. “It takes some effort, but it really strengthens your abdominal muscles,” Gokhale says.
Another strategy is to squeeze your glute muscles (or buttocks muscles, particularly the gluteus medius, which is high up on your bum) when you walk, since those muscles support your lower back. As a bonus, you might also end up with a more shapely butt.